Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Personal or Impersonal God

A question came this morning:

"I wanted your thoughts on the following issue, which someone has raised with me:"

"I am personally grappling with the apparent gulf between this neutral essence or power, which is a quiet witness who never intervenes, and the idea of a loving personal God who hears prayers and responds in kind."

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First of all, I personally do not see any gulf between the two. 

Let's look at both the theories and their apparent difference.

                 Impersonal, Niraakar, abstract God :

As I understand, The Vedanta, Gurubani and of course the Nirankari philosophy, not only believes and supports, but explains thru the Gyana the philosophy of Niraakar and Nirgun Brahm which is 'Impersonal God '. 

Gurubani says : "Roop na rang na rekh kichh, Trai gun te Prabh bhinn, " God has neither any form or shape, nor any of the three qualities" 

That means neither anger nor compassion or kindness. In other words, Supreme God is a silent witness.

The complete Nirankari philosophy is outlined in the first shabad of Avtar Bani;

 "Roop rang te Rekhon nyaare, Tainu Lakh Pranam " (Salutation to the Formless God)

Bhagvad Gita says :   "Nadattey kasya chit Paapam,
                                      nachaiv sukritam Vibhuh"
Meaning "God neither punishes anyone for their sins nor rewards for their good deeds." 
          He is just a quiet witness. 

It also indirectly implies that we have freedom of choice and we are responsible of our actions as well, and that no one intervenes in any way.  

This is the view of a Brahm Gyani and a Nirankari who believes in the formless Niraakar and Nirguna God. 

The only problem with this belief is that most of us can understand this intellectually, but practically it is extremely difficult to follow. 
We cannot always feel, in reality, that " I am a part of Almighty God and in control"
We can not really see every situation, good or bad, as 'illusion'.
We can not always detach ourselves from everything by saying that “I am not a body and nothing of this world affects me".

 Most of us, most of the times, feel that we are more or less helpless and we need someone to pray to, who will listen to us, fulfill our desires and take care of us when we need. 
So, instead of impersonal God, most of us like the idea of believing in a personal God.

The Vedanta, besides teaching about the abstract Impersonal God, also explains its three forms, namely:

1.  Nirgun Brahm :  Niraakar and Nirguna 
      (Formless with no attributes)  A silent witness.

2.  Ishwar or ParamAtma:     Niraakar but Sagun Brahm : 
      Formless God with qualities such as compassion, love and 

3.  Bhagvaan :        Sakaar and Sagun : 
    God in physical form with above mentioned qualities such as 
    Gurus or Avtaars. 

First would be considered Impersonal God while 2nd and 3rd would be the 'Personal God'

 Personal God can be  "Niraakar " or 'Sakaar ' 

Are they different ?  No. 
Do we have to choose one?  No. 

In reality, all three are same in different forms. It depends on how we look at it. 

Goswami Tulasi Das says;

“Agunahi Sagunahi nahin kachhu Bhedaa”

“Jo gun Rahit, Sagun soi kaise
 Jal, Hima, Upal Bilag nahin jaise”

Meaning: There is no difference between Nirgun Brahm and Sakaar Brahm.
   How could that be? Just as water, ice and steam are not different. They are  simply different forms of the same.”

Which belief is good for us? Depends on who we are and which level we are at.

Dr. Radhakrishnan divides the humanity in 3 categories.

1. Intellectual
2. Emotional
3. Action oriented

The first two would be relative here;

    Intellectual or Gyani & Emotional Bhakta.

For the first ones, who have the knowledge and control over 'self ' the path of Nirgun and Niraakaar Brahm is fine. But the Bhaktas who are emotional, may not be able to accept and handle the idea of an Impersonal God who is not going to do anything for them. So the second or third path might be better for them.

  "However one worships, 'He' accepts his devotion."
                                                              (Bhagvad Gita 4:11)

In the end, it all comes down to the acceptance and surrendering. 

A Gyani will say   "It happened the way it happened because of my Karma. God is simply the witness".

A Bhakta will say “It happened because God wanted it to happen this way."

If it happened in his favor:" He gave it to me because I prayed" 

If not in favor: "I prayed but He did not give it to me because, for whatever reason, He did not want it." 

A Gyani will say "There is no need to pray”.

“Bin boleyaan sab kichh jaanadaa, Kis aage keechai Ardaas”

A Gyaani thinks “Whatever is going to happen, will happen according to my Karma", and he accepts it.

Bhakta  finds satisfaction in praying and accepts the outcome as "His will "

Unlike a worldly person who will complain and get frustrated or angry, the Gyani and the Bhakta, both will maintain their peace by accepting everything, thru their own respective belief. 

I cannot say which would be the right belief for someone else. It depends on each individual's intellectual and mental- emotional state. 

Lord Krishna says in Gita " Teshaam Gyani Nitya yukta, EkBhaktir Vishishyate" 

“The 'Gyani Bhakta ' is my favorite one” (combination of both)

Nirankari Mission is teaching exactly the same.... Bhakti thru Gyana. 


‘Rajan Sachdeva’


  1. Dhan Nirankar Ji,

    A lot of perspectives and examples were touched to explain the question, which should help whosoever is reading to strike more conversations.

    The concept of differentiating Nirgun Brahm, Ishwar, Bhagvaan is new to me. I think it could be one way of putting things into perspective.

    You said in Shri Bhagvad Gita, Lord Shri Krishna said He prefers Gyani Bhakta. So, for my understanding how would one balance the intellect and Emotions, I mean would it be OK to be situational?

    The article sets the tone that one need to find the perspective which he or she is OK with whether it is Impersonal God, the one which doesn't interfere or Personal God, with whom one can interact and feel the connection.

    Warm Regards,

  2. Satkar Bhari dhan nirankar to al saints ...

    Rev. Rajan ji,
    thanks for giving clinical view to whole question of "Personal or Impersonal God" , i must add that the saint who had asked this particular question is not only very intelligent but right path of awareness..

    like you said in closing of your reply ... I to personally feel that its is the level of awareness (gyan) that separates to situation..
    one of the examples from holy Quran:

    "He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of) them" [Holy Quran 6:160]

    it is also one question where gyan meets be-gyan...

    sages of the past say that we may climb 9 steps to reach terrace just to find that , all nine steps and terrace are made from same concrete ...

    most of the music originates from "sa re ga ma pa da ne"... while singing we may not realize that these notes are within the song or particular raga...

    to a released soul .. it is the unity of Nirgun and sagun which is all blissful... we may refer to query of hanumaan ji , when he was given ashirwad of "ananya.bhakti" while he has just asked for bhakti ...

    at one particular level of awareness we see the unity between two ... i personally say that personal god (i would refer to guru here & Gyan) is consumable for of omnipresent impersonal god (formless nirankar)......

    3/4 of earth is full of water , but the refined or filtered water which is get from drinking water facility is consumable and is beneficial ...

    so it is upto individual how he wants it to be ... level of awareness will decide its course ... .. or we can call it evolution of soul ...

    when lord rama broke lord shivs arch.. it was narrated in ramayan
    "Rahi bhawana jinki jaisi , guru murti dekhi tin tasi"....

    nirgun or sagun... like any perfect versatile actor , nirankar can assume any form any role ... that is what it does .... :)

    he is the perfect lord master , perfection itself .....

    keep blessing ....

    satguru malick kul akalan da, ruhan(souls) da b swami ey
    appe naam jappawan wala aap he satguru naami hai ....

    dhan nirankar ji

  3. Rajan bhai....congrats on your lucid article about personal and impersonal GOD....very nicely explained.

  4. Thank you Shivshakti Pandav ji. Glad to know you liked it. I added a few more lines just now ...perhaps you would like to go thru it again.
    I have also changed the font.
    Rajan Sachdeva


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